Because of weather-related closures at Wake County facilities, the House Wake! COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program will extend the application deadline until 5 p.m. on Monday. This new deadline will allow anyone who was unable to submit their application by Friday's deadline additional time to do so.
"Since we closed our doors today as a precaution against the snow and ice, some people who may have wanted to submit their applications by today's deadline may not have had the opportunity to," said Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson. "We want to give them every chance possible to apply for the help they need to avoid eviction and keep their lights and heat on."
Wake County and the City of Raleigh announced earlier this month that the House Wake! program would end on Jan. 21 to ensure any approved application after the deadline would receive assistance through April 2022.
COVID-19 hospitalizations went up again Friday.
NC Department of Health and Human Services reports 4,867 people are currently in hospitals being treated for the virus. That number is up from 4,741 yesterday.
The daily positivity rate also went up from 33.3% to 34.3%, with another 35,000 positive cases reported.
The state also confirmed 85 more people died from the virus, increasing the statewide death toll to 20,193.
North Carolina requested federal assistance to help alleviate strained hospital capacity in the Charlotte area.
The highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 has continued to rage through North Carolina and the United States.
With cases and hospitalizations rising, capacity is running out and staff is becoming exhausted. That is why the NC Department of Health and Human Services joined Atrium Health to request assistance from FEMA.
"We continue to monitor hospital capacity and staffing needs and have requested resources, including additional nurses from FEMA," Governor Roy Cooper said. "We appreciate previous federal support and will keep working to make sure that people get the medical care they need."
"The vast majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated," NC Health Secretary Kody Kinsley said. "While we will continue to pull every lever we can to safeguard hospital care, each North Carolinian can do their part by staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations and wearing a well-fitting mask when around other people as we weather this surge."
A total of 4,741 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Thursday, and that number is expected to grow in the coming weeks.
Wake County Public Health is proactively closing its COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics on Friday and Saturday.
All testing and vaccine appointment holders will receive an email to let them know they can return on Monday or Tuesday to their scheduled site where their appointment will be honored.
All other Radeas and NCDHHS/Mako Medical testing sites in Wake County will also close on Friday and Saturday.
On Wednesday, Wake County Public Health will reduce the hours of appointments at its five testing locations from 12 hours to 8 hours a day (Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays).
This shift will still allow for more than 8,000 daily testing appointments Monday through Saturday, for a total of nearly 50,000 tests available weekly from Public Health sites.
This shift is made possible by increasing testing capacity in the community and new at-home testing options.
"During this unprecedented surge in Omicron cases, Wake County Public Health doubled its testing capacity and relied on employees from across our organization to staff our testing sites, so we could continue our incredible level of service," said Dr. José Cabañas, Wake County's Chief Medical Officer. "But long term, it has just become unsustainable as we work to ensure we don't interrupt other critical services. We appreciate the federal, state, municipal and community partners who have stepped up to help meet local testing demands."
Several COVID-19 testing sites operated by MAKO Medical Laboratories in the Triangle will temporarily close Friday and reopen next week because of the winter storm.
PNC Arena (Raleigh), Mudcats Stadium (Zebulon), WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary), Word of God (Raleigh) will all close Friday and reopen Monday.
Two new testing sites will open next week: Highland Baptist Church (Raleigh) will open Monday (M-F 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Apex Community Park (Cary) will open Wednesday (M-F, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
The N.C. Division of Prisons said it has completed the administration of COVID-19 booster shots to all offenders who consented to the shot and were eligible as of last Friday.
"We have worked hard to get shots in arms, and greatly accelerated this initiative over the past few weeks," said Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee. "This is an ongoing effort to do all that we can to keep people healthy and safe, and we are committed to providing booster shots to willing offenders when they become eligible."
While vaccinations and booster shots are voluntary, a total of almost 22,000 offenders have been fully vaccinated, which is almost 80 percent of the prison population.
Because of the threat of inclement weather, the COVID-19 testing event held at The Roanoke Rapids Theatre will be closed Friday. Testing will resume Monday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
In addition to the mass COVID-19 testing event being held at the Roanoke Rapids Theatre, Halifax County Health Department, NCCU and Radeas Labs have partnered to provide two testing events.
- Jan. 29 at Greater Joy North Church -1711 E 10th St., Suite 13 in Roanoke Rapids from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
- Feb. 12 at Ivory Hill Baptist Church - 4505 Medoc Mountain Road in Enfield from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
At each of the events, no registration or appointment is required. No out-of-pocket costs and insurance is accepted but not required. This is an RT-PCR test with results within 12-24 hours of testing.
At a media briefing to discuss the looming winter storm, Gov. Roy Cooper was inevitably asked about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooper was asked whether a vaccine mandate was on the table.
"We are in a different place today than we were in the beginning of the pandemic," Cooper said. "We have free effective vaccines. We are focusing on getting shots in arms and getting our businesses resources for testing. That is where the focus will remain."
He said the public health and safety of North Carolinians will always be the No. 1 priority.
"We know that the goal is to get to the endemic phase of the virus," Cooper said. "Like the flu and other illnesses- it will be around a while. But what we want to do is get our population vaccinated. We want to live our lives normally. Everybody is frustrated right now, and the more people we can get vaccinated and boosted, the quicker we move out of the pandemic to the endemic"
North Carolina officials are reporting 29,580 new cases for a total of 2,177,357 since the start of the pandemic.
A week ago, the case count was 44,833, but that number was so high because delayed results were added to the total.
The daily percent dipped slightly but remained above 30%. The latest figure was 33.3% compared to 35.9% the previous day.
Hospitalizations set another record, with 4,741 patients. That's 52 more people than the day before. A week ago: 4,275 people were in hospitals because of COVID-19.
NCDHHS also reported 71 new deaths for a total of 20,108 statewide since March 2020.
The Halifax County Health Department reports 1,113 new cases since Jan. 13 for a total of 12,057 positive COVID-19 cases since March 2020.
The death count remains at 150 or 1.24% of all COVID-19 cases in the county/
COVID-19 testing at Optum Serve testing locations at El Centro Hispano, Wheels Fun Park, Durham County Memorial Stadium, and 414 E. Main St. will be closed Friday because of inclement weather. All sites will reopen Saturday at noon.
Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said there has been a recent rise in COVID-19 cases at the Durham County Detention Facility.
"The Sheriff's Office and the Durham County Detention Facility has seen an increase in COVID cases amongst our detainee population since the Omicron surge," Birkhead told Durham County officials. "After testing the entire facility over the past week, as of today, we have 112 detainees with COVID."
Birkhead said the Sheriff's Office will continue to follow the science and implement recommended mitigation protocols.
"In anticipation of increased PPE burn rates, continued testing, the need for additional cleaning supplies, and potential ventilation system improvements, our intention is to submit an emergency funding request to the Board of Commissioners within the next few days to assist with implementing short-term and long-term measures to enhance our mitigation strategies," Birkhead said.
Wake County received 200,000 N95 masks from the state health department and will be handing them out at five different locations across Wake County starting Thursday.
The CDC says N95 masks offer the best protection against the omicron variant because they are tested and certified to filter out more potentially harmful things in the air.
Wake County Public Health will be giving out the mask at the locations between 8:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. on weekdays while supplies last. Masks will also be given out at testing sites and vaccination clinics.
UNC-Chapel Hill's student government has secured 10,000 N95 masks from the state and will be giving them out to students starting Thursday.
UNC will distribute the mask at the Great Hall lobby on Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Undergraduate and graduate students at UNC are able to sign up to receive two free masks.
Starbucks, which employs 288,000 people in the U.S., is no longer requiring those workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a policy it announced earlier this month.
In a memo sent Tuesday to employees, the Seattle coffee giant said it was responding to last week's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 6-3 vote, the court rejected the Biden administration's plan to require vaccines or regular COVID testing at companies with more than 100 workers.
"We respect the court's ruling and will comply," Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in the memo.
Starbucks' reversal is among the most high-profile corporate actions in response to the Supreme Court ruling.
England is ditching many pandemic restrictions.
Face masks will no longer be mandatory in public places and COVID-19 passports will be dropped for large events as infections level off in most parts of the country, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday.
Johnson told lawmakers that the restrictions were being eased because government scientists think it is likely that the surge of infections prompted by the highly contagious Omicron variant "has now peaked nationally."
While hospitals in northern England still are getting pressed by high caseloads and infections were still rising in schools, Johnson said hospital admissions and patients in intensive care units elsewhere in England were stabilizing or falling.
The government is no longer advising people to work from home, and compulsory face masks will be scrapped in secondary school classrooms starting Thursday.
Mandatory COVID-19 passes will not be needed to gain entry to large-scale events beginning Jan. 27. Face masks will no longer be legally required anywhere in England as of that day.
"We will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one," Johnson said.
The news was welcomed by businesses, especially those relying on workers re-populating city centers, as well as hospitality and tourism.
Scotland and Wales, which set their own public health rules, have also announced a similar easing of restrictions.
NCDHHS reported 17,374 new cases for a total of 2,147,777 since the pandemic began in North Carolina.
It's the lowest daily case count since Jan. 4 (10,276).
The Omicron variant continues to be highly contagious and the numbers bear that out as the daily percent positive set a record with 35.9%, surpassing the previous high recorded one day earlier.
On this day last year, the percent positive was 10.2%.
Hospitalizations also continue to set records. The total of 4,689 daily patients is the highest of the pandemic and beats the record set just one day earlier.
Also, 37 new deaths were reported, bringing the state's total to 20,037.
Because of the high demand for COVID-19 testing, Wake County is opening yet another testing site.
Starting Monday, Highland Baptist Church at 8524 Crowder Road in Garner will join the list of testing sites around the county. This site was scheduled to open today, but we learned early this morning that its opening would be delayed to Monday.
Appointments will be available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. You can make your appointment here.
Please click here for a full list of Wake County testing sites, so you can make an appointment for the site closest to you.
In addition, more Americans will soon have access to N95 masks for free.
ABC News has learned the White House will be taking 400 million masks out of the strategic national stockpile and shipping them to pharmacies and community centers starting at the end of this week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new guidance suggesting people wear KN95 or N95 masks as opposed to cloth ones due to their effectiveness at slowing the spread of COVID-19.